WILLISTON, N.D.-A man was sentenced Tuesday to serve eight years in prison for spreading HIV to another person.
Angel Miguel Rodriguez, 42, entered an Alford plea to one charge of transfer of body fluid that may contain the human immunodeficiency virus, a class A felony. In an Alford plea, a defendant maintains his innocence but acknowledges the prosecution has enough evidence for a conviction.
Rhiannon Gorham, Rodriguez's public defender, told Northwest District Judge Kirsten Sjue that her client disagreed with some of the prosecution's claims but agreed to enter an Alford plea to take advantage of the agreement offered by prosecutors.
He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with two years suspended. He will get credit for the 453 days he spent in jail before Tuesday's plea. When he is released he'll have to serve five years of supervised probation.
Rodriguez was arrested in January 2017, after a woman he'd dated in summer and fall 2016 contacted police. She told officers that she had been diagnosed with HIV after having unprotected sex with Rodriguez and that he never told her he was HIV-positive, according to court records.
In court Tuesday, Williams County State's Attorney Marlyce Wilder said Rodriguez had met the woman in August 2016. At one point in time, someone told the woman that Rodriguez "had AIDS," Wilder said, but when the woman asked Rodriguez whether he did, he told her, "Probably not."
A detective found that Rodriguez told officers at the Williams County jail that he had HIV in November 2015, Wilder told Sjue.
Wilder said the woman, who didn't attend Tuesday's hearing or submit a victim impact statement, had been consulted about the agreement.
"At some point, the victim in this case needs to have closure in this matter," Wilder said. "And I hope that she finds peace in the fact Mr. Rodriguez has been sentenced to a considerable amount of time."
Gorham said her client had hoped for a shorter sentence, but also understood the seriousness of the charge. And even after he's released, she said, he will be watched.
"Following this sentence, my client will have a significant amount of time on supervised probation," Gorham said.
When given the opportunity to speak, Rodriguez, who was speaking through an interpreter, asked Sjue what she wanted to know.
Sjue told Rodriguez he had the chance to say anything about the case.
"I don't know what to say," he said.
Sjue accepted the agreement, calling it an appropriate resolution to the case.